Saturday, October 17, 2009

Hockey Night In Montreal

A few quick thoughts about the game in Montreal. Last year, Montreal provided two of the more entertaining pieces of hockey I saw all year. The whatever the team's failings, they always seem to be an energetic group which works hard and makes the other team want to win. So I had high hopes that this would be a good game, featuring speed and effort from both teams.

First. Pascal Leclaire, I am a believer. The Senators had no business being in the same area code as the Montreal Canadians for the first twenty minutes, let alone being ahead for much of the period. That frantic, seemingly disorganized scramble in front of the Ottawa net is becoming more of a routine -- and the more I see it, the less concerned I am, because I just know Leclaire will be there.

Leclaire didn't rob anyone in particular tonight. It is just the same rapid fire chances that the Senators are giving up. In previous years, enough of these would have gone in that we'd have gone into Coach's Corner down at least three.

For all the headlines about the rest of the team, my first, my only star of the night is Pascal Leclaire.

(But even so you have to shout out to the penalty kill performance. Leclaire can't stop five guys coming at him, he needs a little help, and tonight the PK showed patience and discipline.)

Second. I like how Montreal was a curious combination of classy and crass. Crass when Kovalev had his puck possessions for the first couple of periods, yet classy when Kovalev scored his goal to stand up and cheer for him.

I've been amazed watching him -- the details in his puck handling skills are phenomenal. I think once the rest of the team can learn to use his skills, good things will happen more frequently.

Third. Michalek -- fresh from a hat trick in Ottawa, threatening again in a short-handed situation. I love it. He could yet turn into an elite forward.

Overall. One of the commentators tonight noted that the Senators' recent good form can be attributed to a run of softer teams that they have been facing. The real test will come next month and the month after, where they will be playing teams somewhat higher up the food chain. But still, the Senators have traditionally struggled to pick the low hanging fruit, and it is nice that this team, right now, can pick up the so-called "easy" points when they are available.